Date of Award

May 2020

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Jason R. Wiles


Biology education research, Mentors, Nature of science, Research engagements, Research mentors, Undergraduate research experiences

Subject Categories

Life Sciences


Within the sciences, it is important to provide all students access to undergraduate research experiences and mentoring relationships that are beneficial to their learning and success. As such, this research investigates the following aims: (1) Develop a seminar-style course for 1st and 2nd year biology undergraduate students that involves reading and discussion of primary scientific literature, writing about science, and engaging with researchers within the department. (2) Assess how an introduction to biological research course, that does not include explicit nature of science (NOS) instruction, affects students’ nature of science understanding. (3) Assess how faculty lab-based research experiences (FLRE), course-based research experiences (CURE), and a research seminar course effect students’ self-efficacy, research skills, and future goals, as well as how these experiences differ in their effect on students in these areas. (4) Assess the different mentor-mentee relationships that exist within an undergraduate students’ FLRE and the roles of each of these mentors within the experience, as well as differences in science identity of the students engaged in this experience.

Results from this research suggest that engaging novice students in a research seminar course increases their NOS understanding, self-efficacy, and desire to pursue research post-graduation. We also found that FLREs and some CUREs increase students’ skills formulating hypotheses and designing experiments. Results also suggest that students engaging in FLREs largely consider the lab member who spends the most amount of time directly supervising them to be their primary mentor, and these are most often non-faculty post-graduates. Finally, among students engaging in FLREs, men students were more likely to identify as scientists and women students were less likely to identify as such. Together, these results highlight the importance of undergraduate research experiences and mentoring for student success in the sciences.


Open Access

Included in

Life Sciences Commons